SpaceX says rocket performed OK in secret satellite launch

SpaceX says rocket performed OK in secret satellite launch

There's a brewing controversy surrounding SpaceX's recent launch from Cape Canaveral late Sunday night.

An article in Wired said that Northrop Grumman provided the adapter to mate Zuma to the Falcon 9.

However, SpaceX never officially confirmed the success of the mission.

However, cameras did not follow stage two of the rocket, and reports suggest Zuma may not have reached its final orbit.

Asked to comment, SpaceX - which is based in Hawthorne and whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - issued a statement Monday afternoon: "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally". It was said that Zuma failed to separate from the second stage of the Falcon 9, broke up in the air and fell into the sea.

As far as we can tell from reporting by both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, the Zuma satellite failed to successfully separate from the upper stage.

As for Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the Zuma satellite, it simply added "we can not comment on classified missions".

Northrup Grumman, the maker of the payload, said it was for the U.S. government and would be delivered to low-Earth orbit, but offered no other details. He said a number designation was assigned by federal space trackers, but that doesn't mean there is anything still in orbit.

The launch was initially supposed to take place in November but was postponed so the California-based company could take a closer look at potential problems with the fairing, or the nose cone part of the rocket that protects the payload.

SpaceX is the commercial launch service formed by Elon Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla. The company has recently ramped up its launch pace, even launching two missions from opposite coasts within about 48 hours.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp, led by entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched its first satellite for the U.S. military with its Falcon 9 rocket in May of previous year.

Teams will watch closely as the three-core launch vehicle is loaded with propellant at pad 39A on Thursday, then briefly fire its 27 Merlin engines for the first time.

On its website, SpaceX says it has more than 70 upcoming missions on its launch manifest, which could take several years.

After launch, SpaceX returned the tall portion of the Falcon 9 rocket to an upright landing at Cape Canaveral.

The company has been preparing to launch its new Falcon Heavy rocket, which is made up of three Falcon 9 engine cores.

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